Brytewood, England November 1940
ISBN 10: 0-7582-3483-X
ISBN 13: 978-0-7582-3483-4
It will take all of Brytewood's Others to save their village from destruction in the climax of a Georgia Evans' supernatural trilogy... .
Gryffyth Pendragon has done his bit for the war effort when he comes back to sleepy Brytewood from the battlefront at Trondheim. It cost him a leg, and his chance to use his dragon's strength against the Nazis, or so he thinks. Until he finds out that his little village is facing a plague of vampire spies set on delivering it to the Third Reich. They've come up with a plan that, if they can pull it off, might break all of Britain's will to fight.
But there are more allies for Gryffyth in Brytewood than he'd ever imagined, and while a doctor, a nurse, a schoolteacher, and a couple of sexagenarians doesn't sound like much of a battle force to him, there's more to his cohorts than meets the eye. Against ancient and impossibly powerful agents of evil, they will need every man, woman, and dragon-shifter they can get.
Mary let out a gasp. She must have stumbled, tripped or missed her footing. Her partner caught her and a moment later he had her right hand and she was back in the rhythm of the dance. Or at least her feet were keeping time with the music as she and whatever his name was made their way down the dance to the end. Now she had her back to the dark-eyed man. She wanted so much to turn and look at him again. But she wasn't that rude, was she? Her partner was a nice lad, pleasant polite and about as exciting as peeling a sack of potatoes.
While behind her was... God! She felt his gaze like a fire up and down her spine as she moved up the dance as another couple took of down the line. Utter nonsense. Was it? She swallowed hard. She wanted so much to turn her head. To prove to herself she was imagining things. That Gryffyth Pendragon (she knew it was him form the triumphal entrance engineered by the village worthies) was not watching her every step and breath and the heat in his glance as she met his eyes was figment of her imagination. But without turning her back on her partner and the dance, there was no way she could be sure. Besides that would be rude. She caught the hand of the next man coming down the dance. She had to concentrate, pay attention, smile at her partner.
While behind her, his eyes boring a hole between her shoulder blades, was the guest of honor who had umpteen old friends here and knew everyone and... .
Mary stepped up as another couple reached the bottom.
Two more couples and the dance would be over. She must be out of condition. That was it. She needed to get herself up to the hammer pond and immerse herself in the water to restore her equilibrium. Why else was her heart racing like this?
The last couple reached the end. The music stopped with a flourish. She honored her partner with a bob of a curtsey, thanked him and avoided Tom Longhurst's glance, as he came towards her.
She didn't remember crossing the length of the village hall, no doubt she'd walked on toes, tripped up children and pushed aside old ladies. She just made a beeline to where Gryffyth Pendragon sat, watching her approach.
He smiled as she reached him.
Her mouth went dry.
What the hell was she doing? Approaching a virtual stranger, and the guest of honor into the bargain, when she'd promised to go back and help with the tea urn.
"Hello," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm Mary LaPrioux."
"I know," he replied, moving a coat off the chair next to him. "Have a seat. Want a beer?"
She loathed beer. "Thank you." He filled a glass from the almost empty jug in front of him. She took a sip. Yes. She loathed beer but it wouldn't kill her. "How did you know my name?"
Easy enough, really. Most of the village knew who she was by now.
"I asked Tom Longhurst."
Spluttering beer down her nose would have ruined the moment. It was a near thing. "Tom?"
"Yes." She noticed his eyes weren't dark. His long lashes were but his eyes were the blue of a Guernsey sea in June and crinkled at the corners as he gave a slow, almost twisted, smile. "He told me you were taken."
"What?" Yes, she had no trouble believing it. "Not by him, I'm not!" That was it. He wasn't even getting the promised dance now.
"Good." Gryffyth replied, taking a deep drink of his beer.
They sat in silence. Not an awkward one but it did go on too long. "I know your father's glad you're back safely."
He nodded. "He keeps saying that."
"You doubt him?"
He drained his glass. "No." The empty glass made a soft dull thud as he put it down on the table.
Odd wasn't the word. He was abrupt, almost off-putting, but she didn't want to leave him. Something about him kept her here sitting so close their knees almost touched while she sipped on the beer that tasted worse with each mouthful.
"You don't think much of the beer, do you?"
Why lie. "I don't usually drink it. But I've never tasted Surrey beer and thought it was time I did."
"Or," he said with an edge in his voice, "you didn't want to ask a cripple to hobble across the room for a glass of orange squash."
"Of course not." That earned her a scowl. "I loathe orange squash."
His laugh was gloriously deep and earthy and sent warm shivers down her back. It took all she had not to rest her hands on his chest and feel the ripples coursing in his muscles.
She meshed her fingers together and clasped her hands tight.
"What do you like, Mary LaPrioux?"
"Moonlit nights, warm breezes, running across the countryside." And bathing naked in the hammerpond but the latter she'd best keep to herself.
"Bit late in the year for all that, isn't it?"
And no doubt tactless of her to mention running.
"It'll be spring before you know it." Unless they had a winter like last year's to get through.
"Are you always this cheerful?"
"Not really. It's a front I put on. I get pretty dismal when I let myself go."
He chuckled. Not quite are sexy as his laugh but very nice all the same. "That makes two of us. Maybe we should get dismal together."
Not quite knowing why, she reached over and took his hand. "Best not," she said.
He closed his fingers over hers. "What do you want, Mary LaPrioux?"
She had absolutely no idea. Other than to sit beside him and try to make him laugh again. "I wouldn't mind a cigarette." He reached into his jacket pocket, flipped the pack open and offered her one. Then produced a silver lighter. "Thank you."
"I'll swap you for the beer."
"Go ahead, but I drank out of it."
"Not got anything contagious have you?"
"We've had problems with headlice in the school."
Dear God! He was wonderful when he laughed. Wonderful but so melancholy. "Nothing worse than that?"
"Terminal homesickness." Now why had she said that? She was saying nutty things. Stupid things.
He nodded. "I know what that's like."
Another odd, but not uncomfortable silence. Then he squeezed her hand, his fingers strong and warm around hers. She met his eyes and his odd twisted smile. Very sexy, odd twisted smile.
"Looks like Tom Longhurst is heading this way. I bet he wants to ask you to dance."
She bet he was too, dammit. "You'd better ask me first."
His smile faded as if snapped out. "Take your jokes somewhere else."
Hurt wasn't the word, but darn it, he'd walked into the hall and... "I'm not joking, funning or teasing. It's a waltz, nice and slow." She stood, only half aware what she was saying and doing. But she kept hold of his hand. "Come on."
The woman was loony. Expecting him to dance when he could barely walk.
"It's a really slow one," she repeated.
Gryffyth glanced up. Longhurst was definitely heading his way. Damn. "If I fall and measure my length, you're going to swing for it."
He stood. Had to be as insane as she was. Except she walked slowly, keeping pace with his hobble, and the look on Longhurst's face was almost worth the risk of humiliating himself in public. Side by side they walked to the middle of the dance floor. He couldn't help notice everyone stepped back, scared he'd land on them when he toppled, no doubt. It was on the tip of his tongue to tell this woman she was mad as a hatter and go back to his beer. But she rested her hand on his shoulder, his arm curled around her waist and she smiled up at him. "Want me to lead?"
Hell, no! He took a firmer hold of her waist, clasped her right hand in his left one and on the beat, stepped forward.
With his tin leg.
He didn't fall, didn't topple in a heap but it wasn't exactly graceful as they bobbed and stepped. She was surprising strong for her slender build. When he wobbled, she steadied him. When he lurched, she added balance and held him strong. Forget fancy twirls and reverse turns. This was simple, straightforward tread on your partner's toes waltzing. He managed to miss her shins most of the time but her toes had to be black and blue.
Not that her toes were really foremost in his mind.